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by Chris Marshall
20 January 2022
Tories launch consultation on powers to remove failing MSPs

Tories launch consultation on powers to remove failing MSPs

A consultation has been launched on proposed legislation which would allow failing MSPs to be removed from parliament.

The Removal from Office and Recall Bill, being put forward by Central Scotland MSP Graham Simpson, would allow for the dismissal from office of an MSP if they don’t take part in parliamentary proceedings for more than six months without a valid reason.

It follows the case of former finance secretary Derek Mackay who continued to receive his MSP salary, despite resigning from the Cabinet in February 2020 after sending inappropriate messages to a teenager on social media. 

Mackay continued as an independent MSP until last year's election, despite not attending meetings or votes in parliament.

Simpson, said: “The vast majority of MSPs enter politics to serve their constituents to the best of their ability – but in all parties there may be members who have abused their position or failed to meet the high standards expected of them. This bill will provide the levers to remove them from office.

“The taxpayer should not be paying for an empty seat in the parliament debating chamber, nor should constituents be left unrepresented if their MSP is serving jail time.

“This bill is common sense and would reassure the public that MSPs will be held to account for their misconduct, rather than being able to claim a salary while hiding away and running down the clock on their term. I urge fellow MSPs of all parties to back it.”

The proposed legislation would ensure the automatic removal from office of any MSP sentenced to a prison term regardless of the length of sentence.

Under the current rules, jail terms need to be longer than a year for an MSP to be unseated.

The Scottish Conservatives said that meant that had he not resigned, former SNP MSP Bill Walker could have continued in parliament, despite being convicted over a catalogue of domestic abuse in 2013.

Scottish Labour business manager Neil Bibby said: “The ongoing Tory scandal at Westminster and the SNP’s lack of transparency in Scotland has only strengthened the need for the people of Scotland to be able to hold MSPs to account.

“Public trust in elected politicians is vital to the proper functioning of our democracy, but the failings of Tory and SNP politicians has eroded it over many years.

“Scottish Labour is committed to ensuring that the people of Scotland have the power to hold MSPs to account and believe the time has come for legislative action on this matter and that of double jobbing.”

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie added: “After the scandals involving Bill Walker, Derek Mackay and Mark Macdonald, I urged the Scottish parliament to introduce tough measures for punishing misconduct by parliamentarians.

“I'm disappointed that it has taken so long for a bill to be brought forward. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will scrutinise these proposals to ensure that they will be effective at keeping our house in order, while ensuring that it is not abused to inconvenience or get rid of MSPs you disagree with.”

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